Here is the second in my little mini series about my experiences with new dogs this year. I've chosen to talk about Butters...
I met Butters (an American Cocker) in December 2020. I had had conversations with Laura his owner, and she had told me he was anxious meeting new people and in the past year he'd had some unpleasant experiences. She really wanted to send Butters to daycare with us where he could be happy and safe with other dogs, and also be with people who he could trust. So I knew immediately had some work to do for him to trust me.
Being such a cute puppy had made it difficult for Butters. I Know that sounds odd, but it's true. People (strangers!) of all ages thought it was ok to stroke him, cuddle him, get in his face, without asking for permission or even considering how this would make Butters feel. It frightened him. It was too much and it became so overwhelming that Butters started to show anxious behaviour even before people approached. I know what this can feel like as a person, someone coming up to me getting in my face, saying silly things, people you don't know what they will do or say. Can you imagine what it must feel like to a dog? People of all ages looming over you, grabbing at you, never knowing what they are going to do. As a person you can tell that person to go away, politely or not, but there is a level of control for us. But there isn't for a dog, especially if you want the best for them, or don't want to offend people. Having an anxious and fearful dog can happen really quick, without even realising and many owners feel stuck. Butters owners decided to put DO NOT TOUCH on his harness. I totally agree with this. Not everyone notices but many do and it makes them think twice before they reach down and grab or touch him. Sadly though, it still had a long lasting effect on him and his owners (Laura and Joe) work really hard to ensure he has the best life ever. And he does!
When I hear stories like this (which I hear many of with regards to people and other dogs) I say 'Be firm not rude and tell the other people - Do not touch, Put Your Dog on a lead, My Dog Does Not like other dogs in their face' And I completely understand this is not an easy thing to do. I find it hard, you don't want to be seen as rude or nasty or aggressive. Just practise saying it. And even the other person is offended, that's their issue not yours. You are looking out for your dog.
So, when I got to the house I was really aware that he may find me imposing and scary. Especially as I usually smell of other dogs! I sat on the floor, got some treats, and didn't try to touch or do anything with him. I spoke to Laura all about him and his history, all the while throwing treats over to him.
Over the time I was sat there, he gradually got closer and closer, I'd look at him casually a few times, gently tell him he was a good boy for taking the treats, and continue to talk to Laura. After a little while he got close enough to give me his paw and let me touch him a little, but it was all on his terms. By time I left we had made enough progress to arrange a time for Butters to come to my house for a little visit.
Butters came on two visits with us at the start of January; once for an hour then for a few hours on the Saturday. He was anxious at first which was to be expected, so we were just very calm with him, sat with him, stayed relaxed and let him meet our dogs (he loves the company of other dogs - his mum is a groomer, I've more info about her at the end) and then he went home. On his second visit we planned a trip to Hyde park where, due to lockdown, we would meet my parents for a walk. It was me, Ceinwyn and Morgan, Willow and Tilly (two of our dogs) my parents and of course Butters. He was anxious at first, but once he settled and understood that none of us was going to bombard him and overwhelm him (and that my mum would adore him!) he loved it. It was like he'd been coming out with us every week! He was even part of our group photo for the week!
Since then we have taken care of Butters every week and he has proven time and time again what a wonderful dog he is. And how hard his owners work with him. for instance, Butters has THE best recall I have EVER seen in a dog. I am not exaggerating either. He either stays by my side, or if he is running around I only have to call his name once and he comes straight back to me. No treats required! He is amazing. Butters has even assisted me in training other dogs recall. He is a superstar! I know if I have him with me, even the most unreliable of dogs will come back with Butters.
I asked his family to share a few words with us about Butters...
'As Butters was a lockdown puppy I was growing increasingly concerned of his attachment to me and his fear of strangers. He missed out on a lot of socialisation as we were locked up for 2 months when he was just 10 weeks old. I called Georgia and she was more than happy to get stuck in socialising him with other dogs and her family and in the space of 9 months he has grown very confident (sometimes too confident!) and is doing so much better in social situations and he absolutely loves it when she collects him. He has come along way despite the obstacles he has faced.'
Butters is a very cuddly dog and his fur is so soft, so there's no surprise really how he got bombarded as a puppy. It doesn't make it right though. We must ALWAYS ask if it is ok to say hello to a puppy or a dog. Even if the dog is eager to say hello. Its not just about people staying safe, its about the dogs well being. And we don't know if they are in training. We love having Butters with us, he is a bit cheeky sometimes and knows how to push his luck with me, but I do feel quite honoured that I am lucky enough to be trusted to take care of him.
Back in August we randomly bumped into Butters and his family. It was at a country fair, miles away from home. Neither of us knew the other would be there. I was there with the children and my parents. Butters spotted us before we spotted them, and he saw Morgan first. Butters was beside himself! He went straight to him and greeted Morgan with much love. Then he saw the rest of us, and it was the best day ever! I always feel its nice for owners to see what their dogs are like with us, to give them reassurance of how we take care of them, especially the more anxious ones. But I can not tell you how good it feels to get that reception from a dog that we know struggles and we have worked with.
Butters is an absolute joy. Its very clear from his personality and behaviour that is he so loved, he has a tremendous bond with his family, that they do a lot of training and socialising with him, and he makes my job easier having him around.
A little more about his mum, Laura.
'My name is Laura and I am the owner of The Canine Styler. I have been dog mad since I was very young. I trained as a dog groomer after my A Levels almost 12 years ago now. I have managed two busy salons in my career and decided to go self employed two years ago. I have taken part in a few competitions and regularly attend seminars on how to improve my skills and there is always more to learn. I gained my City and Guilds qualifications around 6 years ago in both Level 3 Intro and achieved my Diploma not long after that. I am moving to Clough End Kennels In Broadbottom from 3rd January 2022' For more information please contact Laura on 07549791749, alternatively email email@example.com or find her on instagram - thecaninestyler.